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Upton Sinclair: New Lysistratas: Women must refuse to have babies until men stop killing

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

American writers on peace and against war

Upton Sinclair: Selections on war

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Upton Sinclair
From Boston (1928)

Upton Sinclair

“Maybe the ‘antis’ were right, Grannie – women are not meant to meddle in politics! Maybe we ought to stay home and look after the babies, like Aunt Clara. And when we get the babies raised, the old men step in and send them off to the battle-field, so what’s the use? I go over and over it in my mind, and the only conclusion is that this generation of girls must go on strike, and refuse to have babies until the men stop killing…”

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Lies! Lies! It was the autumn of the year 1920, and a great political campaign was at its climax; America had ceased to be a republic, it was an absolute monarchy, its ruler the Prince of Lies!

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Captain John Quincy Thornwell, Jr., Cornelia’s grand-nephew, oldest son of the president of the First National Bank of Boston, had been an officer in Battery A, the fashionable militia organization, in which the young blue-bloods dashed about expensively. Tall, golden-haired, haughty, he had looked so “fetching” in his fancy uniform that he had fetched a wife who would some day own ten per cent of the electric light industry of New England. “Captain John” was a director in his father’s bank, a builder of airplanes, and of anything else which had to do with killing – so sure of his own superiority he was.

Never would Cornelia forget the day when he and his unit had departed for France. She had gone with the heart-broken young wife to see them off; a dreadful experience – all the Boston blue-bloods there in their expensive limousines, many of them stuck in a swampy field alongside the Ipswich River, caught by a sudden deluge of rain, and an ear-splitting thunderstorm; all social influence, all family connections set at nought by the irreverent elements – it was quite like being at war – blue-bloods actually struck by lightning and killed! And these refined and delicately nurtured young Harvard men, dressed in water-soaked khaki plastered with mud, standing at attention for the “Star-Spangled Banner”; then struggling with exasperated horses, to get very real and bloodthirsty cannon dragged out of mudholes.

“Captain John” had ridden off, like many others, forever; in the desperate fighting in the Argonne Forest he had disappeared from human ken…

When Cornelia argued that “John did give his life for his country,” the new generation answered, “Don’t talk like a legionnaire! He gave his life for Father’s bonds. I didn’t want them and I’m not going to get them, so I can’t see that I owe any reverence to my military cousin.”

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